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LEFKARA

On an inclined limestone slope with the dark igneous rocks of Troodos in the background, between Pentashinos and the Maroni rivers, lies the compact village of Pano Lefkara.

The stone-built houses, the tiled roofs, the traditional arches which can hardly be distinguished, the indigo-blue colour of several houses, the tall belfry of the imposing church of the Holy Cross which dominates the village together with the scattered olive tress, the carob trees, the cypress trees and the almond tress around the settlement, offer the first view of the village seen from afar. If you are not informed about its history, its traditions and legends, if you do not learn about the occupations of its inhabitants and about the “genius” of the village, you may eventually form the false impression that you are facing a typical village, another Cypriot village.

As soon as you approach it, immediately you feel fascinated. You are struck by an unexpected, probably unique, beauty. The meandering narrow streets-fortunately some of them are still pebbled – its stone – built houses with the exquisite stratifications of local limestone, the wooden doors on the street, the balconies and in one case the kiosk, the arches and the numerous other elements of local architecture attract you. The upper floors of the houses are particularly imposing and together with their height and their plethoric numbers give to the narrow streets the look of a rich town. In the once densely populated settlement, with the numerous continued upper floors you find streets with plenty of shade and coolness especially during the summer months.

In the small house yards, the flower pots with their varied flowers are plentiful. It is here that you will encounter many jars, small and large, which were once used for olives, wine and oil, though now, with their deep reddish colour form a decorative element of the paved yards.

Although the visitor will spot few decorations on the doors of the old houses, especially the street doors, built of worked out stone on the upper face of which the age of every house is recorded; it is nevertheless the belfry, the narthex and generally the church of the Holy Cross that will impress him. The church of the Holy Cross, very old and very imposing is connected with traditions going back to the years of the arrival of Saint Helen to Cyprus. The rich, gold-enameled, ikonostasis of the church, very rare for a rural community, made with exquisite decorative art, flanks old precious ikons. It rises under the dome with the fresco of the Almighty.

However, the deserted dwellings or the houses inhabited only for few days or few weeks in the summer are numerous. This shows that the population of the village in old times was denser. There are several mansions of incomparable beauty and charm among the building worn out by time.

The thin dry soil of the village and the scanty tress could not sustain the population of Lefkara. For this reason many Lefkara people left the village and settled in all parts of the world. Today you find them in America, England, South Africa and Australia. Many still own the derelict houses despite their absence for years from the village. Others repair them either remaining faithful to the colour and tradition of Lefkara or importing foreign elements in popular architecture of the village.

Those on the other hand, who did not want to leave the village, strove as hard as they could to hold onto it, sometimes ignoring even its natural environment. Land and tress became a secondary occupation and the Lefkara people, using their brains, their hard work and their inventiveness, learned to make Turkish delights, became silversmiths and now sell the products of their toll to other towns and villages of Cyprus. That for which the village is famous is its “lefkaritica”. The Lefkara lace is something exclusive not only of the village but of Cyprus too. This art of the laces at Lefkara must be a very old one. May be in the beginning embroidery was a simple art though later, perhaps the influence of Venice contributed to more complex znd fine embroidery. It is also said that Leonardo da Vince admired the laces of Lefkara and bough one which he later donated to the cathedral of Milan.

The richness and variety of the designs are unrestricted like the great number of names given by the women of Lefkara to their creations: “potamoi”, “milouthkia”, phinikota”, “carre”, etc. Certainly, the design presenting a special technical and aesthetic interest is “potamoi”. This is a large ornament embroidered usually at the edge along the cloth with “potamoi” its main design crossing the embroidery and forming various triangles. The triangles are decorated with various designs depending on the dexterity of the artist. Young girls and black-clad old women, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, either out in the narrow streets, or in the solariums, daily do the needlework and the lacework. One day they will sell them in the villages and towns of Cyprus, sometimes to the tourists who visit the village daily, but mostly they will send them abroad to almost all countries of the world.

This is how emigration started in the village. The first Lefkara lace merchants who visited other countries on their return home told stories about the conditions prevailing in those countries. Thus some started imitating their example travelling too, while some others decided to settle permanently in those countries.

The village is very charming. Sometimes you are fascinated by the peculiar type of architecture of the houses, kept in a good condition, though some other times you are particularly moved by the inhabitants themselves. Certainly there are legends and traditiona about the place. The village too has its Righena castle. It is a conical hill to the northeast of the village where according to tradition the place of Righena was found. It was at this isolated, quiet and picturesque place that Righena came every summer to spend her vacations. The story of Righena, the mysterious queen of Cyprus, is repeated here too as in so many other villages and localities of the island. The imagination of the people could not refrain from placing her in the beautiful area of Lefkara too. The villagers believe in the legend. They believe in a big buried treasure that nobody can find because its exact location is unknown